Chris Christie is very fat. That wasn’t the problem, as he contemplated running for president on the Republican ticket: 75 per cent of Americans are overweight, if not quite that overweight. Governor Christie is also Roman Catholic, and that is a problem, a very considerable problem, as regards his electability nationally. You can be certain his religious affiliation was in the mix as he sat down with his people this week and made his decision not to declare himself as a candidate.
It’s not a problem in New Jersey, which has the fourth highest percentage of Catholics in the country (41 per cent), after Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. New York, at 40 per cent, comes right behind Jersey. Note the geographical proximity of these five states, which vote Democratic more often than not but would probably have found Christie an appealing alternative to Obama. The nation at large, however, is only 25 per cent Catholic. White American Catholics have, generally, tended to become less religious over the past couple of decades. Not so Protestants (51 per cent of the population), especially in the south and west of the country, where the Evangelical Christian movement has spread like kudzu.
We’ve been through this before with Kennedy, you might reasonably note, and we currently have someone of African-American ancestry sitting in the White House. And the leading Republican candidate for president is a Mormon, which doesn’t go down too well out there in the hinterlands, beyond the borders of Utah, either. Bush the Elder called himself Episcopalian, which seems about right. Junior identified himself as Methodist, and as a ‘Reborn Christian’. Reagan was something or other vaguely Christian. He hated going to church. Clinton is Baptist, no surprise. Obama an ‘unaffiliated Christian’, also no surprise.
If you were handicapping the Christie decision to run or not, your eyes might well have been on the Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their tens of billions of dollars, a good chunk of which is devoted to bankrolling right-wing causes and candidates. They appeared to be in favour of a Christie candidacy and might well have had the juice to help ease him through the Republican primaries in places like South Carolina, Florida and Texas. Had Christie decided to run and made it through the scrum of the primaries without a major temper tantrum and/or coronary, then the Davids, Axelrod and Plouffe, not to mention the president himself, would have found themselves in the ring with 300 pounds of wise-cracking woe. They may have been relieved to learn yesterday that Christie is now going to devote his full attentions to solving the not inconsiderable problems of the Garden State.